Merriam-Webster Logo
  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
  • Scrabble
  • Spanish Central
  • Learner's Dictionary


verb, ab·solve \əb-ˈzälv, -ˈsälv, -ˈzȯlv, -ˈsȯlv also without l\

Simple Definition of absolve

  • : to make (someone) free from guilt, responsibility, etc.

  • : to give forgiveness to (someone who has sinned) or for (a sin)

Source: Merriam-Webster's Learner's Dictionary

Full Definition of absolve


  1. transitive verb
  2. 1 :  to set free from an obligation or the consequences of guilt

  3. 2 :  to remit (a sin) by absolution

absolver noun

Examples of absolve in a sentence

  1. <no amount of remorse will absolve shoplifters who are caught, and all cases will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law>

Did You Know?

The act of absolving can be seen as releasing someone from blame or sin, or "loosening" the hold that responsibility has on a person, which provides a hint about the word's origins. Absolve was adopted into Middle English in the 15th century from the Latin verb absolvere, formed by combining the prefix ab- ("from, away, off") with solvere, meaning "to loosen." (Absolve also once had additional senses of "finish, accomplish" and "to resolve or explain," but these are now obsolete.) Solvere is also the ancestor of the English words solve, dissolve, resolve, solvent, and solution.

Origin of absolve

Middle English, from Latin absolvere, from ab- + solvere to loosen — more at solve

First Known Use: 15th century

Synonym Discussion of absolve

exculpate, absolve, exonerate, acquit, vindicate mean to free from a charge. exculpate implies a clearing from blame or fault often in a matter of small importance <exculpating himself from the charge of overenthusiasm>. absolve implies a release either from an obligation that binds the conscience or from the consequences of disobeying the law or committing a sin <cannot be absolved of blame>. exonerate implies a complete clearance from an accusation or charge and from any attendant suspicion of blame or guilt <exonerated by the investigation>. acquit implies a formal decision in one's favor with respect to a definite charge <voted to acquit the defendant>. vindicate may refer to things as well as persons that have been subjected to critical attack or imputation of guilt, weakness, or folly, and implies a clearing effected by proving the unfairness of such criticism or blame <her judgment was vindicated>.

Rhymes with absolve

ABSOLVE Defined for Kids


verb ab·solve \əb-ˈzälv, -ˈsälv\

Definition of absolve for Students


  1. :  to make free from guilt or responsibility <He was absolved of wrongdoing.>

Law Dictionary


transitive verb ab·solve \əb-ˈzälv, -ˈsälv\

Legal Definition of absolve


  1. 1 :  to set free or release from some obligation or responsibility <a judgment terminating a parent's rights…absolves that parent of all future support obligations — In re Bruce R., 662 A.2d 107 (1995)>

  2. 2 :  to determine to be free of fault, guilt, or liability <a jury absolved the defendant of any negligence — Harbaugh v. Darr, 438 P.2d 74 (1968)>

Seen and Heard

What made you want to look up absolve? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


marked by grandiloquent style

Get Word of the Day daily email!


Take a 3-minute break and test your skills!


Which of these is a synonym of nonplus?

perplex disapprove reduce soothe
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!


Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.